When Hannah Milbrandt, now 21, was just a child her mother, Teresa, told her she was dying from leukemia. The truth was - she wasn’t.
Teresa shaved Hannah’s head, gave her sleeping pills, and taped bandages to her body to hide medical ports. She was forced to wear a surgical mask, and was sent to counseling to prepare her for ‘death’.
Her mother even hid the truth from Hannah’s father, Robert, who at the time believed his wife and said she had taken Hannah to all her appointments.
Setting about to raise money for treatment, Teresa ran fundraising events in Hannah’s name. Their home town rallied to Hannah’s support and raised as much as $31,000.
However nine months after Hannah’s ‘diagnosis’ her school became suspicious, and upon further investigation it was revealed to be a hoax.
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Teresa confessed to the con and was sentenced to six and a half years for theft and child endangerment.
While her father has always maintained his ignorance of the scam, he later pleaded guilty to child endangerment. He admits he ‘should have known’ what was happening since Teresa always scheduled Hannah’s medical appointments for when he was away on business. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
Hannah told Daily Mail that her father’s conviction still upsets her and she believes that he had no idea of the hoax:
‘I believe he was manipulated by my mother...she was his wife for nine years and nothing before this had ever happened. So why would he question his daughter was ill? He went to prison for five years of his life for doing nothing.’
Hannah was taken in by her aunt, and then when her father was released she moved in with him and his new partner. Even though she has escaped her mother and hasn’t communicated with her in a decade, she says she still suffers anxiety and depression because of the abuse. But she hopes sharing her story will help other abused victims know it does get better:
‘I feel like there are people out there who are struggling and have been abused in some way. ‘It might not be the same as mine but everybody has a story. One thing I want people to know is that even in the hardest points in life, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This life is worth something.’